zaterdag 24 maart 2012

Argentina - Piedras Paradas

Short update of the trip here in South America. After a little climbing trip in Caracas where I did some sportclimbing in La Guairita I left Venezuela and flew towards Argentina. Three days of sitting on a plane or bus brought me towards Bariloche. One of the city´s in Argentina that have a lot of climbing around. I only stayed one day in Bariloche before I moved to Piedras Paradas with a local Argentine, Maty.

Piedras Paradas is a national park four ours southeast of Bariloche. This is a climbing area that is developed a little bit first in 2000. The reason I went to this place is to develop it more thanks to the next Petzl Roc Trip. After the amazing climbing Petzl developed in China, now Petzl will have a new rock trip in Piedras Paradas, Argentina. This amazing desert park is far away from civilization. It exists out of beautiful volcanic canyons. The Petzl Roc Trip will take place in the biggest canyon with walls of 200 meters each side. It's not only a tall canyon but also profound, you can walk from begin to the end for about 5 kilometers.

About 30 climbers from Argentina, France, US and more where invited to bold new routes and search for amazing new lines in this beautiful canyon. I suddenly ran in to the right people and am lucky I ended up here. With a lot of bolds, drills and motivation everybody assaulted the canyon and started putting up amazing lines everywhere. For about two weeks now we have been bolting new lines and it resulted in some nice new sectors containing hard short bouldery routes in steep overhangs to long 50 meter endurance routes.

Altough the quantaty of impressive walls, the rock is a lot of time chosy and not good to climb on. So we had to search very well to find good sectors and solid rock. But this is not a big problem because there is just a lot.

The athmosphere at this Petzl Bolting Trip is amazing. Every night everybody comes together and tells abouth there new lines. A lot of music, some good Argentina wine and good food. A luxuary trip compared to Venezuela Jungle climbing.

Yesterday we came to town with a group of 15 climbers/routesetters to have a nice restday and enjoy the luxuous aspects of civilization. On our way to town we picked up a bump on the side of the road! This bump came right out of the Venezuelan Jungle and is also Belgian.

I was pretty happy to see Sean and hear his stories. I'm exited for the nect part of the trip when we go to Bariloche and Frey. At the end we will be in Tuzgle in the north of Argentina. But first we go back to the Piedras Paradas to find some more king lines!

The goal of this rock trip is not only to have a great event but is also to leave a new and amazing climbing area for after the trip in november 2012. So Petzl helps not only developing the climbing area but also the camping. Right now the camping doesn't has anything except water for drinking. The plan is to build showers and toilets. On our rest days Erwan, the organiser of the trip, gets us to work on toilets. Dig holes and make cement is all we did yesterday as you can see on this picture.

In a week I'll be back with more pictures to give you an image of how the climbing is!

woensdag 7 maart 2012

'Niños con Armas' Chapter 4 and last!

So... What about 'Niños con Dulce de Leche? Like every expedition you prepare
everything, buy food, organize the food well, etc... Although we had a hard time buying the right food and the right amount, one thing we did amazingly good! After packing, hiking, jugging and climbing a human body is tired and needs a little reward. We bought 4 jars of 'Dulce de Leche', this is a sweet and creamy paste from Argentina. Before this trip I did not know what it was but I'll guarantee you that after this trip I'll never forget what it is! Four jars, one jar a week, gave each of us right to one spoon after dinner or with our poridge (in case the Indians ate too much of our sugar). This was heaven in our mouth after a day of climbing.

Return to Jungle.

Like after almost every dinner on the wall we also had after every dinner on the ground our spoon full of Dulce. The day after we returned to the ground we left early in the morning with backpacks of at least 40 kg and the Dulce of the evening in our mind. It was a hard but amazing journey back to the local village, Yunek. Against all our expectations we hiked back with those bags in three days without porters. To find the way back was easyer as expected because of our marks in the threes.

The jungle hike and jungle life was less wild then we had thought. But still we got some story's. 30 minutes after we left the base of the wall I heard Sam, who was 50 meters ahead, swearing and talking to something. Curious I walked towards him and realised there where some monkeys arround us! Sam had all the right to swear, apparently 5 minutes before I arrived a monkey got mad at Sam and pissed all over him. After I laughed for about another five minutes we descended our way back down followed by three curious monkeys for about 100 meters.

Despite to our fatigue and weakness after a month without much vitamines, the hike back felt good to me. Hard but I enjoyed being in this amazing dreamy place! Proud of our first ascent of one of the steepest walls in the world I afterglowed and enjoyed the nature arround us. When we finally got to Yunek, we relaxed and ate leftovers the whole time. We still had one full day in Yunek before the plane was picking us up. In the evening of this day the Belgian team arrived too in Yunek. They climbed one line on the wall and also returned to get more food that they had left in Yunek. So we spend our last day in the middle of nowhere with the Belgian. It was nice to be able to talk to them instead of screaming to them behind a waterfall. It was interesting to share our experiences with the whole jungle climbing aspect and everything that belongs to it. Against my expectations our experiences with everything on our paths where completely different due to other circumstances.

That last morning before our planes left we had a little jam session and said goodbye to the Belgians and the lovely Indians. Hereby I like to thank the Pemón Indians for their hospitality and help to carry bags of their own weight!

Back in the Posada with our drunk German friend, we ate, played pool, swam in the pool, ate more, barbecued, bought 12 jars of Dulce de Leche, ate perros calientos and churros in Ciudad Bolivar and just enjoyed doing nothing!

Now, what about 'Niños con Armas'?

In August 2011 I ended my USA/Canada trip in Squamish. The day I left Squamish Mason told me of this amazing steep bigwall in the jungle of Canaima National Park in southern Venezuela on a table mountain named 'Amuri Tepuy'. He explaind me how he was planning an expedition towards this wall with two British guys and that they were searching for a fourth person. With all my enthousiasm I immidiatly said that I was psyched to join them. Back in Belgium I decided not to start studying and to join Mason, Sam and George on this expedition. One of the best decisions I made the past 20 years. We where told of this amazing big overhanging wall on this Tepuy by British bigwall climber John Arran, who even claimed this might be the steepest bigwall in the world. This Tepuy had two earlyer ascends next to the steep amphitheatre, so this steep part of the tepuy was still unclimbed.

February 2012 a team that existed out of two Brits, one Gringo and myself climbed in 15 days total and 12 days on the wall a new line behind the waterfall Tuyuren named 'Kids with Guns' 5.13a, A3. We climbed almost all the 21 pitches free and might have done the steepest bigwall in the world! Despite the scary, loose pitches and the lack of gear at some places we only placed 6 bolts, 2 protection bolts and 4 belay bolts, on a 450 - 500 meter wall. Our guess of the steepness of the wall is that it hangs over 100 meter, where the waterfall hits the ground.

I'm psyched to have done this first ascent bigwall as my first real bigwall with some nice guys. Altough it was hard for me to understand the Brits, I think our communication was great and the teamwork to reach our goal was present. Thanks to you guys for the great adventure!

I'm definetely also going to thank Petzl to help me realise this trip!

Hasta Luego Muchachos!

So here as promised: Amazing pictures!

Three pictures above: me climbing the third scary pitch!

This is the anker of the portaledge me and Mason slept on! Some upside down pitons and a camhook! Scary!

Our second bivy!

On the top at night! Happy, hungry and tired!

Someone wants a tortilla con nutella?

Relaxed in the Cessna!

maandag 5 maart 2012

Niños con Dulce de Leche? Chapter 3

Our goal clearly was to freeclimb everthing and use the cleanest style to reach the source of the waterfall.

Lifting our butts of the ground!

We didn't spill one precious day at this wall. Not yet recuperated of the hike we found our way to the base of our climb. The start of the first pitch was obvious but tricky climbing. Needing three ropes, two belayers, nailing in some pins and pegs, placing tricky gear we opened the first pitch wich we freeclimbed at 5.11b (6c).

Next few days we searched our way up the wall aiming for some cornersystems almost halfway up the wall. Climbing up six pitches of which a few perfect dream pitches with good gear and solid rock. It was amazing climbing on horizontal edges and crimps protecting with mostly small nuts and thin fingersize cams. We also past one hard pitch (third) on loose rock with almost no solid protection. Mason showed his aidclimbing skills here falling on to a good #.3 cam in a huge loose block. Luckly it didn't come out. When Mason reached the top of this scary pitch only one thing crossed my mind, "Oh fuck, I need to freeclimb this thing"! So I lead this pitch free runing out on pegs and scary pitons. One thing was excluded: falling on this bad gear!

After three days of climbing we prepared ourselfs to move into the vertical world. So exciting, this was my first time I was going to sleep, eat, drink, chill and yeah .... doing your needs on the wall for about 12 days. At the top of pitch 5 we found a nice ledge where we've put up our two portaledges. This was going to be my first bigwall experience! According to Mason and George this was a luxuary bigwall experience thanks to the perfect weather and the steep wall that kept us dry during our whole vertical journey. Sleeping in the portaledge was amazing and more comfortable then in the wet jungle 100 meters below us.

I slowly learned everything in vertical life, sometimes I learned it the hard way. My first morning waking up 100 meters high with the sun on my face and the jungle below I wont forget. Such as standing on the side of the portaledge with a sleepy head and pissing down. When suddenly, while I was putting my possesions away, the corner of the portaledge slipt of a little ledge and made me flip forward doing a salto ending up hanging on one arm of the edge of the portaledge! I looked over at Mason who was standing on the ledge and watched me hanging there with an amazed and scared gaze. Not nowing what just happend I started laughing my ass off and climbed back up. I wished this was filmed, I could have won a price at an american tv show with this stunt!

Living the life with three other nice climbers on the wall was amazing. Every morning we woke up behind the waterfall with the best sunrise giving us the energy for the day. Cooking poridge on the ledge with an MSR stove worked fine too, luckily we didn't get burned down to the ground once! Believe it or not, the life on the wall was more comfortable then the life down in the jungle.

Hard times through the cornersystems.

After 5 days on the wall, having freeclimbed everything, we came to a stop two pitches under the main roof in the middle of the wall. Our pace was going slow due to searching the right way up. We tryed some different ways but everything was hard to freeclimb and sometimes just impossible to protect. Because our main goal was to reach the top we left the freeclimbing behind and took our aiders out. Thanks to George who busted out some amazing aidclimbing tricks like 10 hookplacements in a row on rotten scary rock we could reach the roof!

Still I managed to freeclimb an amazing traverse pitch who probably goes at 5.13a or 7c+ with not much gear and a crux at the end of a runout. Images of this pitch will follow in the movie.
Passing the scary aidpitches boosted our energy and we all gave it a hit to reach the top! From then on our days where really long and heavy due to the motivation of making progress.

200 meters climbing left!

Mason aided smoothly trough the big roof that will possibly go free at 5.13b/c (8a). A big guess about the grade but free it goes. From then on we made good progress with three pitches a day. Waking up with sunrise at 5:30am, eating porridge and starting to jug up our static ropes to our previous highpoint we where bursting through this line. A lot of traverses brought us towards the third (jungle wet) roof where George fell aiding.
Altough he lost two little parts of two fingers and asked me for ibuprofen he still went for it and brought us up past this last roof. Motivation we had, and the feeling of being one strong team was there. We were progressing with 3 pitches a day. Despite a lack of food and water in the last days, our motivation was huge and not much could stop us.

In the mean while the Belgians (Nicolas Favresse, Sean Villanueva, Stephane Hanssens and Jean-Louis Wertz) arrived and climbed a line on the left side of the wall. Our only conversations with the Belgian team involved some screaming and singing to each other. Athmosphere on the wall guaranteed! One morning I was leading a new pitch at 6:30am with the Belgians singing their favourite song 'Drunken sailor' of Irish Rovers on the background. Adrinaline, motivation and power, everything was their to enjoy climbing a new line!

El cumbre!

The 18th of February by sunset we reached the unimaginable wild summit of Amuri Tepuy topping out on the right side of Salto Tuyuren. Eating our last cookies and litlle bit of beef jearkey next to the river on top we had to go down pretty fast. One surprise waited for us at the top. When we looked at the other side of the river it was like looking in a mirror! We saw another two pair of wild man standing in the jungle vegetation. The Belgian Team topped out the same evening as us, each on one side of the river.

Too bad we couldn't discover more of the wild on top of Amuri. The next day we cleaned the line and rappelled down. This was our 12th day on the wall, this is pretty long but still the time went fast!

One more chapter follows! Then you'll know the full story of the Dulce de Leche warriors!

Niños con ... Chapter 2

After a one hour conversation of Mason and me speaking little spanish and Alberto (our guide) speaking spanish mixed with native language we fixed one guide and five porters. Those little natives where welcome to carry some bags on the three day hike trough the hot, open savana and the dense, dark jungle.

One step after the other, to reach one goal.

January 30th we left Yunek with a group of ten people hiking on the short dry grass of the savana with each a bag of 30-35 kg. Soon after we left we had to cross a river with hollowed tree trunks, excually really nice canoos. From then on hiking started for real. Passing rivers and strips of jungle we hiked all along the big and famous Akopan Tepuy. Most of the hike was flat, but the sun made it sweaty and hard to breath.

During the hike and in the evening we shared food with the Pemón Indians. They could taste our morning poridge and evening rice with chickensoup out of plastic bags. They seemed to like it a lot, like we liked there food. The dish we got served came straight out of nature; sardines from the river next to camp, the best sweet bananas we ever ate and a delicious plantane soup. It was really special to see how those people lived togheter and did there daily things to survive.

Three days long we hiked towards the impressive yet unclimbed wall. The third day was the shortest but really intense. Like you will see on the pictures we walked the steep jungle slope on the left side of the wall. Here the machete came handy, every then meters we marked a three to find our way back 20 days later without a guide. This hike was hard and such a releave when we arrived at the base of the wall where the porters left us.
Picture above: Alberto our guide!
We search our way through even more dense jungle to the other side of the wall, here the machete really served well as we where the first humans going through this part of the jungle. We aimed for an open rocky space out of the jungle. This spot was the perfect dry basecamp we needed (we thought). After one day of throwing blocks arround we had a bedroom, kitchen and storage place. 'The Oasis' basecamp of our trip was made!

From the moment we arrived at the wall it took us only short time to find the line we wanted to climb. This line climbed up directly behind the waterfall 'Salto Tuyuren' who bursted from the top of the wall and turned into a river 500 meters below and 100 meters from the base of the wall. Our line climbed the steepest of the wall an past two massive roofs. Looking up from the base all of us were so amazed by this monstrous beast leaning over us. This wall was intimidating, non of us had ever seen a thing like this. The wall is big, amazingly steep, looked like hard climbing and good rock quality. There was one thing that scared us a little, the gear! Where we going to be able to climb everything with our gear or not?

You'll see, things are only getting better!

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